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November 12, 2021 4:00 PM, EST

UPS, FedEx Swap Places Atop Global Freight Carriers List

Port A Maersk truck pulls in as dozens of trucks wait to be loaded at the Port of Los Angeles. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

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The global supply chain, so often taken for granted by the public at large, has become a cause for worldwide concern this year as consumer products go out of stock and manufacturers run low on key components.

Severe port congestion and persistent labor shortages are among the challenges facing the world’s largest freight transportation providers, which continue to contend with lingering disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic rebound.

Although it remains unclear when the flow of international freight will return to a semblance of normalcy, the companies that appear on the Transport Topics 2021 Top 50 Global Freight Carriers list are doing their part to ensure that cargo continues to move via ship, truck, train and aircraft.

Seth Clevenger

Clevenger

This annual list, produced by Transport Topics in cooperation with SJ Consulting Group, offers an overview of the world’s largest freight carriers across all modes of transportation.

Companies are ranked according to asset-based freight revenue in 2020. As such, the updated rankings do not reflect business conditions or structural changes in 2021.

A key example is UPS Inc. The parcel giant edges past rival FedEx Corp. to become the world’s largest carrier based on 2020 freight revenue, but the company’s hold on that position may be tenuous moving forward because it sold its trucking division, UPS Freight, to TFI International in April 2021.

Likewise, TFI is poised to climb the rankings next year on the strength of that acquisition, which greatly ex­panded the Canada-based company’s already extensive trucking operations.

Meanwhile, Maersk remains the largest ocean shipping company on the list at No. 4, but others are moving up the rankings. Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. rises to No. 5 this year, up three spots from a year ago, while China’s Cosco Shipping Group climbs to No. 7.

The airline industry experienced massive disruption when air travel plummeted during the early months of the pandemic, but many passenger airlines were able to shift their operations toward cargo transportation. As a result, several airfreight providers moved up the rankings in this year’s Top 50.

No. 31 Qatar Airways climbed 17 positions from a year ago, while No. 32 Emirates Group moved up eight spots on the list. Although best known as passenger airlines, both companies generated more than half of their revenues from air cargo transportation in 2020.

This year’s Top 50 also features three other air cargo carriers that are new to the list. Luxembourg-based airfreight carrier Cargolux enters the list at No. 44, while passenger airlines Korean Air and Turkish Airlines join the rankings at No. 38 and No. 49, respectively, based on their freight revenue.

The updated list features one other newcomer — No. 48 Wan Hai Lines, a Taiwan-based ocean shipping company.

Several parcel delivery providers also made significant moves up the list. No. 9 SF Express of China climbed into the top 10 after ranking No. 13 a year ago. France-based GeoPost Group jumped to No. 16, from No. 23 last year, and Netherlands-based General Logistics Systems rose to No. 30, up from No. 35.

Containers lined up at the Port of Los Angeles. (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg)

As in years past, several of the largest trucking companies in North America also rank among the largest freight transportation providers in the world.

Less-than-truckload carrier XPO Logistics appears at No. 24 on the Top 50 list, followed by intermodal and trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services at No. 25.

Further down the list, LTL carriers Yellow Corp., Old Dominion Freight Line and Estes Express check in at Nos. 34, 36 and 46, respectively.

In the truckload segment of the industry, No. 35 Knight-Swift Transportation and No. 42 Schneider also appear on the list.

Ocean carriers accounted for 13 of this year’s Top 50 companies, more than any other mode of transportation. The list also includes 12 rail service providers, nine trucking companies, nine parcel carriers and seven airfreight providers.

Among the Top 50 companies, 14 are based in the United States, the most of any country. Six companies on the list are headquartered in Japan, while Germany and China are home to four each.

All revenue figures are listed in U.S. dollars. Currency conversions are based on the average exchange rate in 2020.

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